ID: 262
Category: Cardiovascular Medicine
CreatedBy: 1
UpdatedBy: 1
createdon: 14 Jul 2017
updatedon: 11 Jun 2023

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Author: Khoa Tran
Published Jul 14, 2017
Updated Jun 11, 2023

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Peripheral Artery Disease

Etymology and Pronunciation

peripheral (puh-RIH-fuh-ruhl)
peri - Greek for "around"
pherien - Greek for "to carry"

arterial (ahr-TEER-ee-uhl)
arterial - Relates to arteries, which are the major blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to the rest of the body.

History of Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a condition characterized by narrowed or blocked blood vessels, primarily in the legs, leading to reduced blood flow and potential complications.

The "doppler ultrasound machine" enabled doctors to measure the blood flow in the legs by using sound waves to detect the movement of blood through the arteries. This allowed doctors to identify the narrowing of the arteries that caused PAD.

The angiography was another milestone discovery helping diagnose this condition. This involved injecting a dye into the arteries and then taking an X-ray to visualize the blockages in the blood vessels. This enabled doctors to better see the extent of the narrowing and assess the severity of PAD. 

Since then, advancements have been made in diagnostic technologies such as magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) and computed tomography angiography (CTA), which allow for non-invasive imaging of the arteries. These technologies have made PAD diagnosis more accurate, less invasive, and more widely available for patients in need.

Modern Understanding of Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral Arterial Insufficiency, or Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), is a condition that occurs when there is not enough blood flowing to the limbs, particularly the legs. This happens because the arteries that supply blood to the limbs are narrowed or blocked, resulting in limited oxygen and nutrient supply to the muscles, bones and cells in the legs.

Roughly 50% of individuals diagnosed with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) experience no noticeable symptoms.

Peripheral Arterial Insufficiency can cause a variety of symptoms, including pain or cramping in the legs during activity or exercise, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs, and wounds or ulcers that do not heal properly. If left untreated, PAD can lead to serious complications, such as gangrene or limb amputation.

People who are at higher risk for PAD include those who smoke, have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a family history of PAD. It is important for individuals who are at risk to take steps to prevent PAD by making lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and managing chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Causes of Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a condition characterized by the narrowing or blockage of blood vessels outside of the heart, particularly those supplying the legs and arms. The primary cause of PAD is atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty deposits, called plaques, build up in the arteries and restrict blood flow. Several factors can contribute to the development of PAD. Here are some common causes:

- Atherosclerosis: As mentioned earlier, atherosclerosis is the primary cause of PAD. The accumulation of plaques in the arteries gradually narrows the vessel lumen, reducing blood flow to the extremities.
- Smoking: Smoking is a significant risk factor for PAD. It damages blood vessels, promotes the formation of plaques, and accelerates atherosclerosis.
- Diabetes: People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing PAD. Elevated blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels over time, leading to atherosclerosis and reduced blood flow.
- High blood pressure: Hypertension contributes to the development and progression of atherosclerosis, increasing the likelihood of PAD.
- High cholesterol: Elevated levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, often referred to as "bad" cholesterol, can lead to plaque formation and arterial blockages.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese puts additional stress on the circulatory system. Excess body fat can contribute to atherosclerosis and increase the risk of PAD.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity and prolonged periods of sitting or inactivity can contribute to the development of PAD. Regular exercise helps maintain healthy blood flow and prevents arterial blockages.
- Age and gender: PAD becomes more common with advancing age. Men are generally at higher risk for PAD than women, although the gap narrows after menopause.
- Family history: Having a family history of PAD, heart disease, or stroke increases the likelihood of developing the condition.
- Other medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as kidney disease, autoimmune disorders, and chronic inflammation, can increase the risk of PAD.
- Infections and injuries: In rare cases, infections, trauma, or injuries affecting the blood vessels can lead to PAD.

It's important to note that these causes may interact with one another, and an individual may have multiple risk factors for PAD. Managing and addressing these risk factors is crucial in preventing or controlling the progression of PAD.

Treatments for Peripheral Artery Disease

- - Lifestyle Changes: The first step in treating PAI is making certain lifestyle changes including regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking, and following a healthy diet.
- - Medications: Patients can be prescribed medications to help relieve the symptoms of PAI. These medications may include blood thinning agents, cholesterol-lowering medications, and medications to regulate blood pressure.
- - Angioplasty and Stenting: In some cases, patients may require procedure to improve blood flow to the affected area. Angioplasty and stenting may be used to open up narrowed blood vessels and restore blood flow.
- - Bypass Grafting: In more severe cases of PAI, bypass grafting may be necessary. This involves taking a vein or synthetic tube and using it to create a new pathway for blood flow around the blocked artery.
- - Amputation: In rare cases where all other treatments have failed, amputation of the affected limb may be necessary to prevent further complications.

Lifestyle Changes

Making certain lifestyle changes can be beneficial in managing peripheral artery disease (PAD) and improving overall cardiovascular health. Here are some lifestyle modifications that can help:

- Quit smoking: If you smoke, quitting is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your PAD prognosis. Smoking cessation helps slow down the progression of atherosclerosis and reduces the risk of complications.
- Engage in regular exercise: Regular physical activity, under the guidance of your healthcare provider, can help improve circulation and promote the growth of collateral blood vessels, which can bypass narrowed arteries. Walking, cycling, swimming, and other low-impact exercises are often recommended.
- Follow a healthy diet: Adopting a balanced and nutritious diet is crucial. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats while limiting saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars. This can help control blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and body weight.
- Maintain a healthy weight: If you're overweight or obese, losing excess weight can improve PAD symptoms and reduce the strain on your circulatory system. It can also lower the risk of other cardiovascular conditions.
- Control blood pressure and cholesterol levels: Monitor your blood pressure regularly and take steps to keep it within a healthy range. Similarly, work with your healthcare provider to manage your cholesterol levels, particularly LDL cholesterol. Medications, if prescribed, should be taken as directed.
- Manage diabetes: If you have diabetes, it's crucial to control your blood sugar levels effectively through diet, exercise, medication, and regular monitoring. Proper diabetes management helps prevent further damage to blood vessels.
- Practice good foot care: Pay special attention to foot care as PAD can increase the risk of foot ulcers and infections. Inspect your feet daily for any sores, cuts, or changes and seek prompt medical attention for any abnormalities.
- Manage stress: Stress can have adverse effects on cardiovascular health. Engage in stress-reducing activities such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or hobbies you enjoy.
- Take medications as prescribed: Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to manage symptoms, improve circulation, and reduce the risk of complications. It's important to take these medications as directed and communicate any concerns or side effects to your doctor.
- Stay consistent with medical appointments: Regular check-ups and follow-ups with your healthcare provider are essential to monitor your condition, adjust treatment if necessary, and address any concerns or questions you may have.

Remember, it's important to consult with your healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your lifestyle or starting a new exercise program, particularly if you have PAD or any other underlying medical conditions.

Nutrional Changes

Making specific dietary changes can play a significant role in managing peripheral artery disease (PAD) and promoting cardiovascular health. Here are some dietary modifications that can be beneficial:

- Consume a heart-healthy diet: Focus on a diet that supports heart health, such as the Mediterranean diet or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. These diets emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, lean proteins (like fish and poultry), and healthy fats (such as olive oil and avocados).
- Increase intake of fruits and vegetables: Aim for a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, as they are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These nutrients can help reduce inflammation and support overall cardiovascular health.
- Include lean proteins: Select lean protein sources like fish (especially fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and sardines), skinless poultry, legumes (beans, lentils, and peas), and soy products. These provide essential nutrients without excessive saturated fats.
- Reduce sodium intake: Limit your sodium intake to help manage blood pressure. Avoid processed and packaged foods that tend to be high in sodium. Instead, season your food with herbs, spices, and other flavor-enhancing ingredients.
- Limit added sugars: Minimize the consumption of foods and beverages that contain added sugars, such as sugary drinks, desserts, and processed snacks. Opt for naturally sweet options like fruits to satisfy your sweet cravings.
- Stay hydrated: Drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day to support overall health and maintain proper circulation.
- Consider dietary supplements: Consult your healthcare provider about the potential benefits of certain dietary supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and antioxidants. However, it's important to note that supplements should be used under medical supervision and are not a substitute for a healthy diet.

Remember, it's always a good idea to consult with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional who can provide personalized dietary recommendations based on your specific needs, medical history, and any medications you may be taking. They can help create an individualized plan to optimize your nutritional intake and manage PAD effectively.


Pain in the legs, feet, or buttocks during physical activity
Pale or bluish skin on the legs
Coldness in the lower leg or foot
Sores or wounds on the feet or legs that are slow to heal
Weakness, cramping, or numbness in the legs
Erectile dysfunction

Confirmation Tests

- Angiography
- Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) test
- Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA)
- Doppler ultrasound
- Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)